SAVANNAH — The Apostle Paul did whatever it took to win others to Christ. Today’s Christians should be no different, said Toccoa pastor Andy Childs to Georgia Baptist Convention messengers tonight.
Childs, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in northeast Georgia, preached the missionary sermon, based from Paul’s “whatever it takes” passage in 1 Corinthians 9. There, he said, today’s believers see a timeless blueprint for evangelism.
“Paul said he was going to make himself a slave to Christ in order to save as many as possible,” Childs pointed out. He added that just as building the early church took a strong will, that determination came from somewhere.
It still exists today, but isn’t used, when Christians believe in the importance of evangelism yet can’t make themselves take the first step. In that moment, Childs said, a deeper connection to Christ can help one step forward.
“The spirit of God has a hard time holding back. It understands we’re in a battle.”
An evangelistic focus can’t be inward either, he stated.
“We need to be reminded that this isn’t about growing our church, Bible study, or even convention. It’s about the kingdom of God. In this passage Paul isn’t talking about what the Corinthians can do, but what he could do.”
Telling others about Christ requires an authenticity, a deep-seated experience unique to the individual. Therefore, finding that voice in presenting the good news can be a challenge. In this, Childs encouraged messengers to find someone they can talk to for accountability.
“Gospel passion is personal. No one can have it for you,” he stressed. “I can’t expect Ebenezer Baptist Church to be passionate about the gospel if I’m not.
“Tonight, I need people in my life to make sure I keep that passion alive in me.”
Compassion isn’t compromise
In perhaps the most fiery part of his message, Childs hammered home confronting sin and all it brings. If lost people are invited to church and actually show up, they may actually act like lost people. That mixture can challenge the sanitized appearance many churchgoers try to maintain.
Georgia Baptists take a lot of moral stands in the culture and there’s nothing wrong with that, he said. But, that stance is incomplete without something that points others to the gospel.
“How are we going to expect people to come to Christ if we don’t show them compassion?” he asked. “If we don’t understand the value of people, then we’ll always find ourselves lacking compassion and only focusing on our conviction.”
To illustrate his point, Childs talked about a pastor whose recordings he’d listen to. The tone and language of the pastor came off as hateful and one Childs wouldn’t care to lead his church.
The recording was of Childs, listening to one of his old sermons.
The walking dead
Citing a popular TV show, Childs presented the image of zombies stumbling across our paths, empty and without hope. “We’re around the walking dead right now,” he said. “Will we be the hope and show [lost people] compassion?”
When sin introduces itself in a situation, the result is never clean. It’s messy. It makes things awkward. Christians have to fight through that awkwardness and instinctive default to look the other way, he argued.
“We can’t be dismissive of people, but try to understand the sin with which they wrestle. I submit to you that if we don’t have compassion, we sacrifice the gospel itself.”
Our perspective evaluates the worth of a risk measured in the return received. In this case, we want the potential embarrassment of sharing the gospel to bring a lot of salvations. But, that’s not the position from which Paul nor Christ operated.
“Jesus was all-or-nothing,” said Childs. “He gave it all knowing only some would receive Him. To Him, winning some was worth everything.”
But that risk, Childs stressed, is worth it.
“There’s something about being on the front line of life change, seeing people born again. There’s a blessing we can all share. Together we can lean forward and trust the Lord, knowing evangelism is a blessing. Whether that person walks down our aisle [to receive Christ] or somewhere else, we need to celebrate that.”